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Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start

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Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 3, 2013 Updated: March 7, 2013

There’s no doubt that social media marketing is a proven and established platform for connecting with customers, building a community and generating business. Yet, despite the evidence of its effectiveness as a marketing tool, surveys and studies say few small businesses are making active use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to promote products and services.

A report by eMarketer found that just 24 percent of small businesses have integrated social media in a structured way in their businesses. The report also references findings from Constant Contact that only 49 percent of small businesses consider social media marketing effective.

Why the skepticism? Here are a few reasons and excuses I’ve heard:

  • “I don’t know where to start”
  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I don’t know which social media site is right for my business”
  • “I tried it but it didn’t work”
  • “I’m struggling to build engagement”
  • “I don’t have enough updates to keep my site looking active”

Knowing where to start is perhaps the number one obstacle holding many small business owners back. Knowing what to do when you get there is next. For example, should you use social media to generate leads? For branding? Customer service? Marketing? 

There are numerous blogs on the SBA.gov Community offering tips for getting started in social media marketing. One consistent piece of advice runs through them all: find out where your customers are, start small, and, as you learn, grow out from there.

How?

Last year, I wrote a blog called: How to "Pull Your Head Out of the Sand" and Use Social Media in Your Small Business where I summarized some of the great recommendations from a social media panel at the 2012 National Small Business Week Conference in Washington, D.C. The panel featured experts from Twitter, Constant Contact, Yelp, Google and others. Here’s a summary of their recommendations, a great baseline for getting started:

  • Which Platform is the Right One? Erica Ayotte, social media manager with Constant Contact, recommends businesses start with one channel to test and nurture it. Then try to diversify: “Spend a little time each week exploring new platforms and figure out if they might be for you.” GrowBizMedia’s Rieva Lesonsky recommends: “...find out where your customers can be found, go there first, and then spread out from there… if you run a restaurant, yes, you probably should be on Twitter, but you should really be on Yelp first.”
  • How do You Find the Right People to Engage With? Use search tools to identify and follow people who are influencers in your industry. For example, if you are in the restaurant business, identify food bloggers in your region, give them a follow, and slowly you’ll start to build and grow your followers and influence. The panel also stressed connecting your social media activity to your loyal email subscriber list. Send them an email to let them know about your social media presence and generate new follows from those who are already engaged.
  • What’s the Best Way to Engage with Followers? This is the one area that takes time. Start with interesting information. Google’s Jeff Aguero recommends starting with quality content – something you do really well – then amplify it with social media. Web chats, contests and surveys are great ways to engage, but the panel cautioned small business owners to resist this form of heavy interaction until their new social efforts have had time to grow. “Once you’ve established awareness and trust, then look to step up your approach,” suggested Constant Contact’s Ayotte. “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress,” she explained. “It can take some time to figure out what content is going to resonate with an audience… Try something new if no one responds to your Facebook posts.  It’s OK.  Tweak your posts until you find your sweet spot.”

Don’t Forget to Integrate Your Email and Social Media Marketing

Email is still the preferred method of communication among consumers, and Constant Contact predicts that in 2013 it will remain their preferred marketing channel as well. Email is also a key element in driving social media success, “…using both together to support one another can boost a campaign and bring greater collective benefits, as opposed to using just one or the other,” advises Constant Contact.

Learn from the Experts

There are myriad webinars, ebooks, blogs and other tools that can help you learn the tricks of the trade. Small business organizations like SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and others also offer advice and seminars on this topic (use this interactive map to find resources in your area).

Here’s a selection of SBA blogs that can also help with key areas of your social media strategy:

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Social media does play an important role in doing business in this day and age, a few months ago we started using facebook as one of our promotional media. the results were fantastic, in a few weeks our sales increased sharply.
Excellent article and I agree with everything except I am not quite sure of the importance of Linked In for us personally when only a very small % of our customers (Brazilian owners of pousadas and small guesthouses/hotels) use it. One thing I would add to the list- Social media integration. Making sure that blogs for example are hosted on your site and that all social media communications point people in the direction of your site. When we did this just now (starting by changing from Blogger to Word Press and changing the url to our company url plus the blog name at the end) our page views almost immediately rose by 50%.
Caron, you placed focus on engagement---which is great! Engagement is key to success with social media. Also, ditto, on focusing on a few platforms and 'doing them well.' Business owners often go into the social media abyss believing that they need to be EVERYWHERE, which isn't so. Focus on being present where your audience hangs out, and do it well. It will pay off with longevity and consistency. -Elana Winfrey
What an awesome, comprehensive content of all the various aspects of social media. All of these factors need to be considered in order to be successful in your social networking efforts.
I've had great success with social media, and it helps to diversify where you customer base comes from. You do not want to strictly rely on one source (such as the search engines or even one particular social media site). Facebook pages are one simple way to start getting more targeted exposure to your online business, but YouTube videos offer a very engaging way to connect with your audience. If you combine the two, you have a very powerful platform to get more traffic to your website.
Nice articles, it is absolutely true, in my experience on building my IT company ( This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you. ), social media play a great impact, at least visiting page of my official website. Follow and share articles in Twitter, Facebook Fans Page, G+ Page, etc. related to our product and service, make small discussion will also increase your website popularity.
The new agile marketing method is booming in social media to grow up your business.By bringing and news ideas it will help to grow the bussiness.
nice article social media still has it's own challenges and especially small businesses are struggling to get benefits out of it.. but it's the future and we will see a shift from ad budget going to fb and the rest in the next years
We also agree. Great info. Also bookmarked for reference. If we could vote up more we would. Tks
I am 100 percent agreed with you that when you see that there is no response of your post then you have to change the strategy of using page. You have to think new and creative ideas to give some extra pleasure and information to your readers so they get more engage with your and love your business's page.

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